Jake Leiber of Chez Ma Tante and Le Crocodile
All photos by Liz Clayman, courtesy of Chez Ma Tante and Le Crocodile

Resy QuestionnaireNew York

20 Questions with Jake Leiber of Chez Ma Tante and Le Crocodile


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In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite food movie? What restaurant would you want to time-travel for?

In this edition, we spoke to Jake Leiber, the chef behind two of Brooklyn’s favorite French restaurants, Chez Ma Tante and Le Crocodile (and its rooftop spot, Bar Blondeau), which he oversees with Aidan O’Neal.

The Resy Questionnaire

1. Favorite thing you’ve ever cooked?

The broccoli and anchovy bucatini I made for myself last week. Haunting.

Chez Ma Tante's skate frites au poivre
Skate frites au poivre at Chez Ma Tante.
The Hanky Panky cocktail at Le Crocodile
The Hanky Panky cocktail at Le Crocodile.

2. Kitchen tool or equipment you couldn’t live without?

My Mauviel Rondeau.

3. What pantry items would you bring on a desert island?

Spaghetti, Pecorino, Hellmann’s, Valentina hot sauce, and frozen pork and chive dumplings.

4. What’s your favorite place to get a slice in New York?

Sal & Carmine’s circa 2005. Now, Scarr’s and L’industrie.

5. Favorite cookbook?

The Kitchen Diaries,” by Nigel Slater.

6. Your drink of choice?

Ginger ale and soda, 1:1. Try it.

7. Favorite food movie?

“Eat Drink Man Woman.”

8. Your ideal dinner party guests, dead or alive? 

Fernand Point, Nadia Santini, Hiroyuki Sakai, Chen Kenichi, Martha Stewart, Natasha Pickowicz, Jiro Ono, Paul Prudhomme, Julia Child and her husband Paul, Margot Henderson, Fergus Henderson, Alison Roman, Marcella Hazan, Michel Guérard, Nigel Slater, Jean-Louis Palladin, Jonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley, Joey Campanaro, Aidan O’Neal, Hugue Dufour, Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Jamie Oliver, Nancy Silverton, Max Chow, Gail Simmons, and obviously Anthony Bourdain. Everyone is in their prime.

9. What restaurant industry person do you admire the most?

José Andrés for two reasons:

1. He’s the greatest chef philanthropist in history.

2. As a young cook, I was doing a fundraiser with Jonathan Waxman for Barbuto. As we were loading in, a young stage tripped amidst a large group of people and dropped their mise en place all over the floor. Every single person present saw what had happened and did nothing, save one: José Andrés, who was, at the time, in conversation with a formidable group of chefs, and who flung himself to the floor with the urgency of a battlefield paramedic to help the unknown cook clean their mess.

Chez Ma Tante's pancakes
Chez Ma Tante’s notorious pancakes.
Chez Ma Tante's pancakes
Chez Ma Tante’s notorious pancakes.

10. The greatest restaurant experience of your life so far?

Mugaritz in San Sebastián. It wasn’t the most delicious food I’ve had in my life, although it was delightful, inventive, and engaging — my favorite meal on that trip was probably at Zuberoa (which is more my speed).

But the overall experience at Mugaritz completely blew me away. It was so warm for that kind of gastronomical fine dining. Everything about the evening was perfectly orchestrated but without pretense. Most impressive was the front of house. Each server was capable of speaking the first language of the guest(s) they were serving, which included Arabic and Mandarin on the night that I was there. I found that so incredibly accommodating, so genuinely thoughtful, and probably insanely difficult to achieve!

11. Your greatest professional achievement?

My sous chef [Fernando Natividad] at Chez Ma Tante filming “On The Line” with Bon Appétit. I could not be more proud of Ferni.

12. What single dish best describes your personality?

Hot dog carbonara.

13. If you could go back in time, which restaurant would you dine at?

Harveys. La Tante Claire. L’Impero. St. John, when Fergus Henderson was cooking. El Bulli, through every iteration. Veritas, when Scott Bryan was there. Etxebarri, before it got famous. Ma Maison, followed by Spago in its prime. Mr. Chow London, when it opened. La Pyramide, at its peak. Gramercy Tavern, when Tom Colicchio was the chef. Babbo and Lupa, when Mark Ladner was at them. Jams the OG. Maison Bras, with Michel Bras at the Helm. Chanterelle.

14. Your favorite meal from childhood?

Linguine with cherry tomatoes and capers.

Le Crocodile's leeks vinaigrette
Leeks vinaigrette at Le Crocodile.
Le Crocodile's leeks vinaigrette
Leeks vinaigrette at Le Crocodile.

15. What is your wish for the restaurant industry?

That we had the power to grant citizenship.

16. What do you wish you did better? What do you do well?

Better: Listen. Well: Learn.

17. If you could eat through a city for a day, where would you go?

Lyon. Or maybe Osaka. Or Hanoi. Or Mexico City.

18. The one thing you can’t resist splurging on when you go out?


19. What do you value most in restaurants?


20. It’s your last meal on earth, what are you eating?

Champagne on an empty stomach. Roast chicken and mashed potatoes once I get really hungry, followed by a crisp salad with tart Dijon vinaigrette and many cheeses with crusty baguette. Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert. And finally, strong drip coffee black with a box of mixed chocolates and a bottle of Chartreuse. Champagne the whole time.

The dining room at Le Crocodile
The dining room at Le Crocodile.
Chez Ma Tante dining room
The dining room at Chez Ma Tante.

Chez Ma Tante is open for dinner daily from 5 to 10 p.m. and for weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Apéro is available from 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Le Crocodile is open daily for breakfast (7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and until 11 a.m. on the weekends), weekday lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), apéro (3 to 5 p.m.), dinner (5 to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays), and weekend brunch (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Bar Blondeau is open Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. (and until 1 a.m. on Fridays), and on weekends from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. (and until 1 a.m. on Saturdays).

Noëmie Carrant is Resy’s senior writer. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.